Dubai passport numbers 'genuine'

Wed, Feb 17, 2010, 00:00

The Government is trying to contact three Irish citizens after it emerged passports used by suspects in the assasination of a senior Hamas official in Dubai featured genuine Irish passport numbers.

In a statement issued this evening, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Micháel Martin said additional information provided by the authorities in the United Arab Emirates to the Irish Ambassador, Ciarán Madden, confirms that the passports used were fraudulent.

However, the Department said the "new information" included additional material relating to the passport numbers.

"This indicates that genuine Irish passport numbers were used. These numbers correspond to actual numbers on three legitimate Irish passports", the Department said in a statement this evening.

The Department said the identities of the persons recorded on the forged passports do not correspond to those recorded on the valid passports carrying the same numbers.

The Department of Foreign Affairs is urgently trying to contact the three Irish citizens who hold or have held passports containing these numbers.

Minister Martin requested that the privacy of the three individuals concerned be respected.

Earlier, Israel's foreign minister said the use of the identities of foreign-born Israelis by a hit squad suspected of the murder did not prove the Mossad spy agency assassinated him.

"There is no reason to think that it was the Israeli Mossad, and not some other intelligence service or country up to some mischief," Avigdor Lieberman, asked about the operation and alleged passport subterfuge, told Army Radio.

Israel's foreign minister said today the use of the identities of foreign-born Israelis by a hit squad suspected of killing a Hamas militant in Dubai did not prove the Mossad spy agency assassinated him.

But Mr Lieberman did not deny outright Israeli involvement in the killing of Hamas's Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel last month, saying Israel has a "policy of ambiguity" on intelligence matters and there was no proof it was behind the assassination.

The assassination gang that killed Mr Mabhouh was comprised of six British passport holders; three Irish; and the holders of a German and a French passport, Lieut Gen Dhahi Khalfan Tamim revealed at a press conference earlier this week.

According to the Gulf News, the supposed Irish citizens were Kevin Daveron (38), Gail Folliard (34),

and Evan Dennings (35).

The passport numbers originally appeared to be counterfeit because they contain no letters and have the wrong number of digits.

“We have been unable to find any record of Irish passports having been issued with details corresponding to the details published today in a number of United Arab Emirates (UAE) newspapers,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement yesterday. “We are in ongoing contact with the UAE authorities to try to ascertain the exact facts of the case. To date, we have received no evidence that any Irish nationals were involved.”

Men with the same names as seven of the 11 suspects whose European passport photos were distributed by Dubai live in Israel, and those reached by reporters insisted their identities had been stolen and noted the pictures were not a match.

Six of the men are Britons who immigrated to Israel. The seventh is an American-Israeli, whose name Dubai said was on a German passport used by one of the assassins.

Some Israeli commentators on intelligence matters suggested the Mossad may have blundered - if it carried out the attack and had hoped to keep its involvement secret - by using the identities of people who could be traced back to Israel.

The Palestinian militant group Hamas has blamed Israel for the assassination, and Dubai police have said they could not rule out Israeli involvement.

A security source in Israel said the target, Mabhouh, played a key role in smuggling Iranian-funded arms to Islamist militants in the Gaza Strip. Hamas confirmed the information.

Dubai said it issued international arrest warrants for all suspects, who also include Irish and French passport holders. A government source said six other people, not yet identified, were also believed to be involved.

As the mystery over suspects' identities deepened, Britain and Ireland said they believed the British and Irish passports used by the alleged killers were fake.

A source close to the French intelligence services told Reuters a French passport which Dubai said was used in the operation had a valid number but incorrect name.

"It was a very good fake," the source said.

Austria's Interior Ministry said it had launched an investigation into the suspected use of at least seven mobile phones with pre-paid Austrian chips by Mabhouh's killers.

In the radio interview, Lieberman shrugged off any prospect of diplomatic problems with Britain over suspicions a Mossad team had used counterfeit British passports.

"I think Britain recognises that Israel is a responsible country and that our security activity is conducted according to very clear, cautious and responsible rules of the game. Therefore we have no cause for concern," he said.

Additional reporting: Reuters